Tuesday, 3 January 2017

A Scottish schoolgirl in Belgium in 1962


 From a letter written during an exchange visit:-
[Initials are substituted for personal names]


c/o la famille L
.. 
Theux (Pr. Liège)
Belgique

3:8:62.

Dear Mum and Dad,

 I got your letter this morning just before settling out for Spa with J. We've been there all day and it's a lovely town, full of parks with statues, flowers and fountains. I bought lots of postcards...

  I'm having a marvellous time here. The food isn't really too different --I've even had chips a couple of times (better than D's [local chipshop] too!). I'm speaking French all the time, except when J talks English, which she does when she doesn't want anyone else to understand -- very handy, sometimes.


  The best day so far was Sunday. On Saturday J's friend C came back from Italy where she had been with a group of the local equivalent of Girl Guides, and on Sunday we had lunch at her house. In the afternoon we went (J, C and I) to the fête at Louveigné, near C's. There were dodgems, stalls, etc., but no candy-floss, worse luck! We then had tea at C's before returning here to change for the dance in the evening. J has been coaching me by means of the gramophone... The dances here are much better than in Scotland. The mothers often come along too, and talk over a glass of wine, or even dance, on occasion. No-one liked the orchestra on Sunday, but after the Ben Wyvis Trio, it suited me fine! 

  I always thought I would hate living on a farm, but it's not too bad, actually. J is as much at home milking a cow as dancing a tango! And she also acts as official interpreter around here. There are always Dutch holidaymakers passing, asking for directions, water, permission to camp, etc. She has visited Holland every year since she was 14, and speaks the language so well she has been taken for a native. She has a Dutch friend (she showed us her photo), who is called, approx., using French pronunciation, R, and who is coming here on Monday. R's sister, with husband, and brother, with fiancée, arrived here on Saturday by car, and stayed for lunch. In the morning we all (except Mme., who was cleaning, cooking, and glad to get rid of us) went to change the cows from one field to another. (I really must join the Young Farmers' Club next session!) In the afternoon we all ate cherries M. L had just picked from the tree in the garden. That's another thing here -- the fruit. Wild strawberries by the roadside for the picking!

  The weather wasn't particularly good for the first week, but it was better today and yesterday.

  As I said in my last letter, the house isn't as isolated as I feared. The snag is, you have to walk quite a bit before getting anywhere except a few farms, etc. Theux is bigger than I thought; I wouldn't call it a village at all. We went to Verviers on Tuesday I think it was, and it's about the size of Inverness. The shops are wonderful -- Woolworths with better quality and more space, and a bit of Alec. Cameron's thrown in. My money seems to be lasting out O.K., but don't be surprised if you don't get much of a present.


  There's still lots I could talk about, but it'll have to wait till I get back... Au revoir.


Exchange pupils were presented with an official guide to the country
... and advice on what to expect and how to behave.

(For many, including the writer of the above letter, it would have been their first time abroad).

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